Dec 212011

Minister SM Krishna’s  statement


Madam Speaker, I rise to make a statement on a court hearing in a Russian city on the Bhagavad Gita that was raised in this august House yesterday by hon. Members Shri Bhartruhari Mahtab, Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shri Sharad Yadav, Shri Lalu Prasad, and Shri Hukumdev Narayan Yadav.

A number of other Hon. Members also conveyed their deep sense of anguish over this issue. At the outset, allow me to mention that I fully share the sentiments expressed by the Hon Members of the House on this issue.

Hon. Members referred to media reports about a hearing conducted by a Court in the Russian city of Tomsk on whether a Russian language commentary on the Bhagavad Gita qualifies as “extremist” literature. I would like to inform this august House of the facts of this case.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has been functioning in Russia for decades. ISKCON has faced periodic problems with respect to its properties and functioning in Moscow and elsewhere. On occasion, our Embassy has intervened on behalf of ISKCON with the local city authorities as well as with the Russian Government.

ISKCON conveyed to our Embassy that its branch in Tomsk, Eastern Siberia, had received a notice in June 2011, of a complaint filed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the local court. This complaint, apparently driven by some local individuals, was to the effect that the third Russian edition of the publication “Bhagavad-Gita As It is” – a translation of a commentary by Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON – had certain portions that were ‘objectionable’ and ‘extremist’ in nature.

Following the initial proceedings in August 2011, the District Court appointed its own three-member expert group from the University of Kemerovo (in Siberia), which was to submit a report within three months. The final hearing in the Tomsk District Court was due on December 19, 2011, but has been rescheduled for December 28, 2011, as the Court has agreed to seek the opinion of the Russian Ombudsman on Human Rights in Tomsk District, and of Indologists from Moscow and St. Petersburg, who have greater knowledge and expertise on India.

Officials of the Embassy of India in Moscow and our Ambassador have been in regular touch with the local representatives of ISKCON, since this matter came to light in June 2011. ISKCON representatives were advised to take legal recourse to counter this misdirected complaint. We have also taken up this matter at the senior levels of the Russian Government. The Ministry of External Affairs has been in regular touch with our Embassy in Moscow on this issue. The matter was also taken up with the Russian Ambassador based in India, H.E. Mr. Alexander Kadakin who is himself a well-known Indologist. In fact the Ambassador has been publicly critical of this episode. He has clarified that Bhagavad-Gita is the great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world. He also said that Russia is a secular and democratic country where all religions enjoy equal respect.

(1)The complaint in a local Russian court appears to be the work of some ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals. While  (2)this complaint is patently absurd, we have treated this matter seriously and the Embassy of India is closely monitoring this legal case.

Hon. Members would agree that the Bhagavad-Gita is not simply a religious text; it is one of the defining treatises of Indian thought and describes the very soul of our great civilization. The Gita is far above any cheap propaganda or attacks by the ignorant or the misdirected. In Russia itself, we have many great Indologists, scholars and experts who understand the essence of the Gita and have written on it with reverence and passion. We do not want to dignify with too much attention some misdirected individuals who have filed an absurd complaint. (3)We are confident that our Russian friends, who understand our civilizational values and cultural sensitivities, will resolve this matter appropriately.




Leader of opposition Mrs Sushama Swaraj said as follows… (snapshot from LS website)


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